"Don Baylor (of the A's) said he wanted to play the best team, the Mets, but now they'll be playing the team that beat the Mets," Lasorda said.
Said second baseman Steve Sax, who went 3 for 5 with 2 runs batted in and 2 runs scored Wednesday night: "I like this situation. I really do. I like to be the underdog. Then, the expectation of winning is on the other club. It gives you the sense . . . that you have nothing to lose and only something to gain."
None of the Dodger veterans, the few who have played on all four NL West championship teams in the 1980s, were so bold as to say that the '88 Dodgers should be considered the most talented.
Here, however, is where intangibles, such as the addition of Gibson's fiery attitude and hot bat, Hershiser's indomitable will to pitch a shutout even if he has to do it without rest, and the attitude that they must work together or fall apart.
"This is the best \o7 team \f7 I've ever been on," Marshall said. "That's because we want to win as badly as any team I've seen. We even wanted to win spring training games.
"There are 4 or 5 of us left from that original team (in 1981), and we've taken a lot of heat the last 2 (losing) seasons. This is very satisfying. I can't tell you how much. I think the difference this season was that we made the moves we had to make. We got Kirk Gibson, we improved our bullpen and (pitchers) like Timmy Belcher and Orel have been outstanding."
It almost seemed as if Hershiser, who in the last month broke Don Drysdale's 20-year record by pitching 59 consecutive scoreless innings, surprised himself Wednesday night by pitching a shutout.
Making his third start--and fourth appearance--in 9 days, the Dodger right-hander was in control after a shaky first inning. With his complete game Wednesday night, Hershiser set a league championship series record for most innings pitched, 24. The previous high was 22, held by Boston's Roger Clemens in the 1986 American League playoffs.
Having started games 1 and 3, earning a save in Game 4 and warming up in the bullpen in Game 5, Hershiser showed little signs of tiring.
"You really pump yourself up, especially when no one expects us to be here," Hershiser said. "But between the lines, there's a lot of pressure. I really didn't feel tired. I didn't even think about it.
"Once I got the runs, I could pace myself. I don't think anyone in the world expected me to pitch a shutout tonight."
Not so. Dodger pitching coach Ron Perranoski, by now a believer in anything Hershiser attempts, said he thought a complete game was achievable.
"There are no adjectives to explain what Orel has done," Perranoski said. "They say he can play hockey. Maybe he can skate with (Wayne Gretzky), too.
"I knew the elements against him tonight, so we watched him carefully. But, as the game went on, he got stronger. We got him the runs, and he took it from there."
Hershiser stopped a Met threat in the first inning, then the Dodgers turned around and scored a run against Darling, which proved to be merely a prelude to his second-inning collapse.
The Dodgers jumped on Darling almost from the first pitch. Sax led off by singling tocenter, and he almost scored from first base on Mickey Hatcher's double down the left-field line.
In fact, if Sax had been more observant, he would have seen third base coach Joe Amalfitano waving him home after Met left fielder Kevin McReynolds fell trying to field the ball. But the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead, anyway, as Gibson sent a warning-track fly ball to center to easily score Sax and move Hatcher to third.
"That's what we wanted to do, score early," Sax said. "That's what we had said earlier. If these guys get control of the game, forget it."
The same can be said for Hershiser. But, on this night, he didn't particularly have a strong first inning, but he managed to escape without giving up a run. A single by Wally Backman and a walk to Keith Hernandez with 1 out gave the Mets runners on first and second with the middle of their order coming up.
Hershiser, however, got Darryl Strawberry to ground into what appeared an inning-ending double play. But Strawberry managed to beat shortstop Alfredo Griffin's throw, which pulled Hatcher off first base. McReynolds hit a soft liner to Hamilton at third base for the third out, and Hershiser settled down after that.
"I was terrible in the first inning," Hershiser said. "Mechanically, I was throwing the ball terrible, and I couldn't make an adjustment."
All it took was a trip to the Dodger video room, adjacent to the clubhouse. While the Dodgers were hitting in the bottom of the first, Hershiser hit the rewind button and played back the tape of his shaky first inning.
Whatever irregularities he may have detected were straightened out quickly. Darling, however, did not have the benefit of going to the videotape to solve his numerous problems.